Tuesday, November 27, 2012

DUI (Dissertating Under Influence)


** Wrote this about a month ago but never published it. Don’t ask me why.

I am sure some of you might be wondering if a car hit me and I died, my spirit haunting this blogspace, trying to locate my password. I know I have abandoned this space, shamelessly, remorselessly. This used to be my stage, a space where I used to hang out with my younger selves, right from when I was in my mid-twenties. I certainly owe no apologies, but truth be told, I am too tired to write anymore. So tired that sometimes I have to pause to differentiate between write and right. I guess that is what the final year of PhD does to you. The wrapping up year, when you are busy writing your dissertation, preparing yourself for the job market, applying for jobs, going for interviews, and doing the entire dog and pony show. I did not realize how cynic this year had made me. I have such different tastes and hobbies, such different ways of spending time now, I almost feel like a different person to myself.
I keep telling people that I am dissertating, and I feel weird using the word. It sounds so similar like, umm… lactating. I know. Creating a dissertation is almost like pregnancy of the brain. These days I show so many signs that my pregnant friends do. I am moody, hormonal, less talkative, and let’s just say, in a different intellectual space. It is easier to bait me into controversial arguments. I crave for things I have never craved for before. Watermelons and coconut water for example. And eucalyptus and mint scented candles, the really strong ones. You have to see my fridge to believe how addicted I have become to watermelons and coconut water over the last few months. There are cartons of coconut water and pounds of watermelon lying there because every few hours, I crave for both. And scrabble too. I cannot go to sleep these days unless I play a few rounds of scrabble online. Eucalyptus and mint candles, watermelons, coconut water, online scrabble, and what else? Gym. I am so addicted to the gym, I try to be there 4-5 times a week, do an hour of aerobics, and then about 45 minutes of weight training. The pain, sweat, and the exhaustion give me a high, almost like being on drugs. It gives me time to think of new research ideas. It is a different story that I haven’t lost a pound of weight, but these days I feel like I could flex my wrists, punch a wall and my fists would go right through it.
My dissertation focus is based on women. This is something new as well, since I had never seen myself studying women in the field of medicine. However, the idea was exciting, and more importantly, marketable. You’ve got to write something that people are going to be interested in, and it seems like everyone from painters to filmmakers to writers and academicians are interested in women. Also being a woman gives my research idea more validation.
Online scrabble, gym, and dissertation sums up my life almost. Well, almost. I have also been taking pictures, lots of them. Last week my picture went on public showing and auction for the first time. Of course I was too busy to attend the event, as there were academic deadlines. Oh, and I also started working on the anthology of short stories I have always wanted to write. I started writing six parallel short stories, based on six different ideas and six lives (not connected in any way), only to realize that at this rate, I will end up writing six novellas. I need to cut down on the depth, because short stories need to be, well, short. So that is a project in the air as well.
I am too tired to write, or do anything emotionally taxing at the end of all this. So I watch movies until I fall asleep (watch Forget Me Not, Conversations With Other Women, The Ides of March, and Departures). Departures was an accidental watch, I brought it my mistake when I was looking for The Departed. These days I avoid people as much as I can, at parties and gathering or wherever, just because I so easily feel like snapping at them. It feels like everyone is giving me a deadline to do something. I spend hours analyzing data, and go to sleep, wake up, and analyze more data. This was a summer of rejections. Almost every research paper I wrote independently got rejected. A conference proposal got accepted miraculously though, and I will be presenting next spring in Puerto Rico. Got to tone those biceps before that.
You know, I thought I would be more sure of myself in my final year of PhD, but now, I am not so sure anymore. I do not know where my life is headed, where I would be working and living next year this time. I always thought PhD is hard, but trust me, it is easy. What is hard is figuring out your life after a PhD, when you are not protected by your adviser and school, when you are vying and murdering for grant money, when you are all accountable to yourself, and your institution. Imagine that, and your PhD will seem like a cakewalk.
Anyway, on this depressing note, I shall sign out. This week is filled with workshops where I will learn to brush up my CV, write research statements and teaching statements, and pick up skills to navigate through the academic pipeline. Sometime during my PhD, I convinced myself that I would love to be a research professor. Most of my college professors in India had left a very traumatic mark on me, making me think that all professors did was come to class with an old sheaf of papers and dictated notes to kill time. My school teachers worked much harder to train me than my college professors did. However, American professors have changed my mind. I love the way they talk about living off their creative ideas, traveling the world, rubbing shoulders with the brightest, and most importantly, working independently for themselves. Sure it is not a cakewalk, but I believe this particular journey will be worth the hard work.
More later …
sunshine

3 comments:

Padmanabhan said...

Refreshing to read that honest and unique writing style of yours after a while!

GLAD said...

I was one of your fans who hit your blogger URL, and today am glad to read you. In fact, am inspired by all that you shared. PhD life, short stories dream, so cool !! :)

All the best for defending your Thesis, and for the biceps that go to Puerto Rico next year :)

genie said...

Happy to know that no car has hit you :)